This ain’t no tale of my misadventures on two-wheels. It ain’t about how I rode through hills or deserts or how I got into scuffles with the lawmen on the highways of good ol’ US of A. Nor is this about the girls, bitches or sluts I keep regular appointments with. No Sir! This is a hard-ass story of my life as a fugitive-an international fugitive. I was wanted, not just by the FBI, but listed on CIA and Interpol networks as a “terrorist” and “saboteur."
The story like all my other good stories begins in bed. I was waking up all lathered in my own sweat and drool. Beside me was my lifetime mate and companion – a tall cool bottle of Bud! Cans made some noise in jealous protest, but I still like the grip of the bottle in my warm hands. I turned over, and the girl was gone. She was a tall blonde, as intoxicating as strong beer on a weary cold night. She left a note, though. I thought it might be a bill – though I clearly recalled it to be a booty-call from this chick I had met a week earlier at the local biker bar.
I grabbed my leather jacket, pulled my denims up, fastened the belt and pocketed the note. I stumbled through my home in Southern California and reached the loo. I pissed standing up and my cat made a racket behind me. Maybe I forgot to feed her again. Not again! She will die on me, if I keep this up. Chicks dig cats. But I had grown some affection for this kitten. Very playful! I tried keeping her away from the pot with my left leg, so I could piss in peace. She wouldn’t stop meowing. I felt my five-day-old stubble and decided to get a good shower, if not a shave. The cat finally left me alone and I zipped up. I bent forward to flush and saw that the toilet seat and lid were both down. Fuck these bitches with their rules. I'd peed all over the bathroom.
Anyways, let’s get back to how I became a fugitive terrorist in my own motherland. I stepped out of the puddle of my own filth and saw that the kitchen had run out of coffee. I checked the fridge and there were organ donors rotting in there. Good that I labeled stuff before stuffing it into the fridge. Those were not rotting flesh but foodstuff gone bad. So, I decided that the priority was to wake up. Really wake up! I went over to the sink and poured a cold mug of water over my head. I got a hard on immediately but at least I was fully awake.
I locked up my small apartment and chucked the keys under the rug. I like to get some exercise in the morning. So, I took the stairs. The Chinese couple below my apartment were arguing loudly over something. From what I understood, she didn’t like the fact that he was such a dick. He didn’t like the fact that she didn’t like his dick.
“What’s up amigo?” I asked their toddler son playing outside the door.
“They are fighting over who uses the bathroom first. I just use Aunt Patty’s flower pot.” And he went back to playing with his PSP.
I stepped down to the floor below, and Aunt Patty was smelling her beautiful yellow flowers.
“Good mornin’ Ma’am,” I greeted her and tipped my imaginary hat.
“Hello! I will never know how these plants grow so well even though I hardly take care of them. I mean I forget to even water it most weeks.”
“Oh, it is God’s way of putting a smile on your face dear,” I lied.
“Aw shucks! Here, this is for you!” And she handed me a wet rose trimmed to perfection. I didn’t want to touch it. I believed it dripped of little Feng PSP Shui’s litter but that old hag Aunt Patty has no sense of smell and her eyesight and memory is that of a deer under 20W halogen lamps.
Begrudgingly I took it and offered my thanks. Why do I bother keeping up social appearances and formalities? It is good that I do. Otherwise, I would have been in much deeper shit than Aunt Patty’s roses. You see, socializing is effective insurance against lawmen of all ilk. Everyone knows you as a gentleman and no one speaks ill of you to strangers with black suits and neckties. I pack heat, but never have I revealed it in my neighborhood. They think I am carrying the daily newspaper under my leather jacket under my left arm. I mean what’s the point of highlighting yourself as a gun-carrying weirdo? It is best to keep a low profile where you live and rock the roof of the bar you come alive in.
So, I kicked my beast to life. A 16-year-old. She is a beauty, an all black Sportster. I roared onto the street and pulled the shades out of my breast pocket even though the sun was on my back. I headed straight for “The Booze Factory." No they don’t make liquor there. They just make drunks. It is the bar where me and my buddies hang out and get picked for odd jobs by the local businessmen. I needed a job. I stepped in and landed on a tall stool. The barman, Doug, opened a Coke and passed it to me, along with a glass of rum.
“Do you know roses are red and violets are blue? This tastes good and drinks are on you!”
“Fuck you! You can get laid but can’t land a job, eh?”
“Come on. It is cold out there. Just this one rum! I will pay for the Coke!”
“I got a job for you. Clean the Johns. Smells like twenty rats died in there. And I don’t even have pest control. A John where cockroaches stay out on their own freewill. That’s a toilet you need to clean before the hippie mayor and his wife shut me down.”
“I will wash your windows.”
“Clean the Johns. It will take you three hours. You owe me $50. Come back tomorrow and clean the windows.”
I gulped down the rum and coke. I looked around and there was no one in the bar. I guessed, if I cleaned the John, no one would know. I handed Doug my jacket and stepped into the shitty job of the day.
But let’s fast forward to the moment I became a fugitive, an outlaw, and a hunted man. It all began when I walked out of “The Booze Factory” and into a heavy snow. I pushed my ride under the shade of a great big oak. Then I zipped up my jacket and stuffed my hands into the pockets to warm up. And there I felt the note from the morning after. Yeah, I had forgotten all about it.
It read: “Sam, it was a pleasant night. I gotta run. Deliver this hundred dollar bill to the PO Box no 768. Use a brown envelope. Don’t worry about me. I will see you soon. XXX”
Damn! She forgot to sign her name. Now it will be an awkward five minutes next meeting before she slaps me for not knowing her name. But I had a hundred dollars. So, off I went into the dreary overcast morning and walked towards town. I was not sure if I was about to mail 100 bucks goodbye. But it was a special night yesterday. My muscles were sore and I had a swagger now as I remembered her naked. Her taut breast, perky nipples hugging me from behind. And I pulled her blonde hair with my right hand and brought her lips to mine.
She never said a word, but sighed and moaned like a wild tiger cuddling up to her prey. She bit my shoulder and I touched it just now as if feeling her dig her nails into my back right at present. She was wet and yet silky smooth. She was all over me, and I just couldn’t believe I was in love. Love?
Yes, it ought to be love. Never have, I had second thoughts on the night that went away. Never did I look forward to meeting the same blonde again. I mailed the damn $100 bill. The envelope was white though. The Pop’s stationery plaza had got hold of a pile of cheap white envelopes discarded by some corporate giant that went belly up. It was funny how giant corporations were struggling while these local businessmen stayed savvy and diversified their investments to stay afloat.
I made it a point to avoid malls and chain retailers. If I want coffee, I will drink it free with a paid egg-platter. No café chains for me. I would rather go hungry than bite into a piece of junk food made by clowns. I want my junk food made greasy by traditional cooks.
So, as I walked to the post office and put the white envelope into the mailbox, a dozen coppers descend on me. They are wearing bullet-proof vests and some of them held shotguns aimed at my head. The Sherrif’s car was at a safe distance away and its owner shook his head in disbelief. Two black vans screech into the post office and they shoved me inside one. There were plastic cuffs on my wrists and they put a bag over my head. I am too shocked to say anything. Complain? Demand my rights? Fuck, I was just glad they didn’t knock me out with those top-secret chemicals that scramble your brain. An officer reached out and took possession of my revolver. Another got my wallet and bike keys. These guys were professional. They didn’t need to say a word to me and already I was sweating in this snowy winter.
They removed the bag over my head in a glass room. It was pitch black but the one lamp hanging over the metal table in front of me reflected on all sides by the glass walls. I was pushed into a plastic chair by a tall black man in a slick polyester black suit. He wore a gun, I could tell, or maybe he was that beefy under his expensive clothing. Tax money well spent.
“Cigarette?” The man sitting in a plastic chair opposite me offered. I looked at him and picked out one of the filtered death sticks. I am dead anyway, I thought. He wore black too, but had his tie loosened and top button undone.
“So, Mr. Samuel. You look like the type who doesn’t get beyond barroom brawls and arrests for driving under intoxication. I want to help you. Let’s talk about what you did today.”
He read my file. Two counts of assault in the same bar. One count of drunken driving and that was just my mouthwash that I had on because I was to meet my date.
“What did you do before reaching the post office Mr. Sam. Can I call you Sam? We are your friends here.”
“Sure! I wiped shit off the floor and sprayed ten cans of room fresheners in every part of the shithouse walls.” It was the truth.
“Cool! So you have a day-job. What do you do with your free time?”
“Hump like a dog on steroids. Or hang out at the bar to catch the weather channel.” True! I mean I get laid without batting an eyelid. Never winked at a gal. They just mosey up to me 'cause I am the one who is the gent among the degenerates. In the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed snake of mine is king. I watch the weather 'cause I saddle 100 miles every week.
“Nice! Getting some regular action. Beats wanking at the drugstore. I watch the weather channel too you know, the chick with the mini-skirt just...”
“Ahem!” The black guy in black suit coughed and cleared his throat.
I guess even the FBI and Homeland Security have a good guy-bad guy routine. Why change a good thing. It works. I decided to be more cooperative. I didn’t want another rap-sheet slapped on my ass. I was bad, but I was no criminal.
“Whaddya wanna know?” I asked.
“What was in the envelope you mailed today and why did you mail it?”
“A blonde asked me too. It was just a $100 bill. I would have spent it but I made a...commitment.”
“You are in a lot of trouble grease-monkey.” The black suit slapped his hands on the table and breathed mint breath on my face.
“Hey relax! We are just asking routing questions.” The loose tie interrupted, “Okay, Sam, why? That is a fake currency. Looks just like the real deal. But it burns red instead. The ink is different. The paper is the same. Hard to tell. I can understand you were confused. Tell us more about this blonde.”
“Fake? Well I have never burnt dollar bills dude. And the blonde was a one-night stand. Met her at a bar. She called and came over. We drank, shagged and slept. She was gone before I woke up.”
“Hmmmm! You know, I am trying to help you. I would appreciate it if you respected that and told me the truth.”
“That’s the truth dude!”
“What is this then? Dear Sam... see you soon...signed with kisses. It was in your left jacket pocket.”
“So? She left a note. I did it cause it ain’t too much bother. Put a bill in an envelope and mail it.”
“Yes, a fake note. It was addressed to a PO Box we are watching this past six months. It belongs to a trader. A trader of imported textile goods. Cheap ones. Sold at exorbitant rates. Polyester shite that I wouldn’t pay more than 50 cents a yard. Sells for US $ 50 a yard. Imported from Philippines. It is a fake currency racket aimed at destabilizing our already fucked up economy.”
“Man! You gotta believe me. I am a stand up guy. I love America. I work odd jobs. Menial labour. Earn my whiskey and go home to my cat.” True. I left out the part where me and my buddies terrorized the highways with our big scooters.
“Sam! Sam, Sam Sam. I want to help you. Recall. What’s with this blonde?”
“I don’t remember her name. I would recognize her in a lineup.”
And the next thing I knew, I was flying off the chair and landing on concrete floor. The black suit had dealt a heavy right fist. I felt my jaw from the inside with my tongue. No teeth broken but I was bleeding. Next, the metal table crashed on my back. I gasped for breath. My last memory was the “loose tie” tightening his tie and walking out. I passed out.
Waking up underneath a starry sky is always remarkable, especially on a moonless night. The Heavens are bright with constellations and you can spot shooting stars whizzing past as if they owned the place. I admired this beautiful spectacle and then realized I was wet and groggy. I tried to get up and every bone in my body creaked. They beat me bad. I tried to push myself with my boots to sit up. But it just slipped and dragged me further into mud and grass. I was left in a ditch, in a gutter, like a stray dog that had seen its last hydrant. I lay there helpless and tried to remember how I got there.
“Let’s go!” That’s the last sentence I remembered. Somebody said that after leaving me there. Yup the G-Men. They really let me have it.
The anger and frustration helped me find a foothold in the mud and stand up. I was in the local park. It was probably past midnight by now. I walked a crooked path through the trees, stumbling in the dark, limping in pain. I was covered in bruises. I reached the gate and pushed it wide open. The creak of the iron gate awoke the headlights of a Nightster. It purred in the distance, a panther on the prowl. I didn’t give a damn. I limped across the road, not bothering to notice who or what was going on.
“Ride with me,” she said. It was the blonde, on a Nightster.
“Hell yeah!” I said and hopped on.
We roared into the darkness. She swerved onto the highway. We headed north. I could tell under the stars. "Be prepared," my scout master used to say. I checked if I still had my wallet. It was there with an unused condom in the change pocket. The blonde was a good rider. She handled the bike well. She liked scraping the footpegs in corners. I could tell cause I was hanging on to her for dear life.
“Are you okay?” she asked. We stopped at a diner on the outskirts of the city.
“Do I look okay? What mess are you into and why'd you dragged me into it?”
“Listen Sam, I am a covert agent. My codename is Stephanie Race. And that’s all I can tell you right now. Trust me.”
“I trust you, but a few broken ribs don’t. Mind telling me what’s going on? Why are coppers busting me for?”
“I have been studying your apartment building for past three months. One of the tenants is a crook. I mean a real bad ass. Funding terrorist strikes through a fake currency racket. I had to get in. You were the best choice.”
“You used me? To get in the building? Hell, you could’ve just asked the janitor for the keys to the restroom and he would’ve signed over the deed to his mother’s apartment. Why did you fuck me? I mean metaphorically speaking!”
“Sam, this is my job. I am investigating a mafia that sponsors terrorism on our soil. Do you understand me? This is serious. The cops think I am one of them. But I'm undercover. The envelope was meant for the trader, a sample of a better fake currency. It was supposed to be a brown envelope so that cops don’t get to you. But you used a white envelope which the trader’s Pilipino cronies use. The cops were waiting for that. Not for my note but for the other party. You screwed up the gig.”
“You blaming me. Will you take a look at me and say that again?” I was in tatters. My jacket torn. The jeans all muddy and soaked. My teeshirt was hanging by a thread. And I had more bruises than the boxer who went 15 rounds with Ali.
“I am sorry. It’s my fault Sam. I should’ve been more...careful,” she gulped down the hot black coffee, “Listen, just stay out of town. I will fix this.”
“I have my keys but the bike is at The Booze Factory ya know...”
“Take my Nightster. Tank is full. Registration is fictitious but no one will question you. These are the bike papers,” she handed me the papers, “just ride Sam. Do what you do best.”
I looked through the pages. Sipped my coffee and nodded. I did have a soft spot for blondes.
“Where are you headin’?” I asked.
“To get your name off the Interpol.”
“Interpol” I expressed surprise and then sighed almost instantly. This ain’t over just yet.
“They will watch you. They suspect you. But as long as you go about your business, they’ve got nothing on you.”
“Why can’t I come with you?” It was a naïve question. What would I do around her? She was obviously comfortable in her own skin – super-duper secret agent.
I looked up for an answer and there was no one there. She was gone. I paid the bill. Grabbed the keys off the table and rode her bike out on to the highway. The night was cool but pleasant. I looked at the radium dial of my watch and it said 3 am. I rode for over 5 hours non-stop. Reached a bar and stopped for rum. I rode on and stopped at a saloon for a haircut and a shave. Might as well look incognito now that I am on the run. I checked into a motel, ordered the daily newspaper and checked the news at 9.
The newspaper had no reported incident of post office skirmishes or economic meltdown rackets. The TV news however mentioned how a fugitive is now under investigation for fraud and money laundering.
“Lady! What the hell is going on? This must be about Stephanie Race,” I wondered aloud. The news mentioned how terrorists are brainwashing local businessmen and using them in money laundering missions. They even mentioned a Mafioso who rode a Nightster registered in L.A. My/her Nightster was registered in L.A. But there was more, I had already seen and heard too much. I checked out and rode aways back toward my hometown. Another 500 miles back toward the simple life. The life I knew before fucking like a bunny on crack. I wish I had never met her.
Meanwhile, there were posters up everywhere. The gas stations I stopped at described a tall blonde wanted for defrauding the State. The description and charcoal sketch matched Stephanie Race. I was furious. No one fucks me twice, metaphorically, and gets away with it.
I rode home. I fed the cat. I took a shower. I put on my formal shirt and trousers. A blue necktie. Wore cufflinks too. I polished my leather shoes and pulled on a pair of clean socks. I walked out and headed to the Sheriff’s office. As I crossed the main road to get from the Pop’s stationery to the Sheriff’s cabin, a Sportster raced in and screeched and swerved and pulled out of the road in front of the Sheriff’s car. It was Stephanie Race; on my bike.
Behind her an army of grey clouds was brewing. Sirens grew louder. A dozen vans and police vehicles were roaring in from the horizon. They stopped right at my footstep as Stephanie’s palm slipped into mine. I didn’t want to hold her, but my reflex got the better of me. My left arm slipped around her shoulders.
“Good work Stepahanie. Didn’t think you had it in you!” The loose tie spoke first. The black suit followed behind him.
“Your gun Mr. Sam.” The black suit said, handing over my licensed revolver.
“Stephanie Race. You have proven again that wit and charm is a more resourceful weapon than a few battle-tanks running loose in Arabian deserts.”
“Someone mind explaining me what’s going on,” I interrupted the fiesta.
“Sam, you are a pawn in a complex strategy game. Stephanie was to infiltrate the local mafia and find the hideout where they stashed their fake cash. They bought it. We cracked down on you hard. We are sorry. But all is well that ends well.”
“Sam, they checked out your story,” Stephanie informed, “They did a background check on you and everyone in your apartment building had something good to say about you. But the janitor didn’t know you at all. He knew little about any of the tenants. That’s because he was the gatekeeper, the man who stashed all the loot in his office at your apartment building.”
“That little twit? He couldn’t count the change the pizza delivery guy returns him.”
“Sam, he is their accountant. Deliberately keeps a low profile. When you were out of town, we caught him snooping around in your apartment. He suspected you to be the covert agent. You helped us blow the case wide open.”
The loose tie shook my hand. They got in their cars and vans and drove off. The Sheriff tapped his hat and returned to his cabin. Stephanie held on to me. I still looked like overcooked meat on ice. She puckered up and laid her sweet lips on my cheek. Like all good stories, this one ended up in bed. She did the hardwork. I just lay there wondering how I got in this mess. Did I pick her from a crowd? Did she see a prospective lover? Was this a dream or a nightmare? When do I pinch myself? Did the cat just slip under our blanket? No, that’s just Stephanie racing through her moves. I lay still and enjoyed the free ride.
Copyright Ujjwal Dey 2012